The Goth Trope

Many people’s first if not only introduction to the goth subculture is through popular media. While it can be exciting for the subculture to receive any recognition, the representation is often stereotypical and stigmatized. There are a few ways that goths are usually portrayed in pop culture, so I have compiled three examples that portray the most common archetypes. 

One example that has been extremely prevalent in tv shows, specifically cartoons, has been the angsty background character used for comedic relief. The goth kids from South Park are a prime example of this, although the show still keeps some self awareness about it. They are often joked about as being disrespectful and ungrateful kids who think of themselves very highly. It perpetuates the stereotype that all goths are young people with negative attitudes and will likely grow out of the style. While annoying at times, the South Park goth kids in particular are widely liked by actual goth people who understand that this is they way many people perceive them- and occasionally how they really do act. One thing the character designs have that sets them apart from this trope in other shows is the accuracy in their clothes and the music they listen to. They have an 80s influenced style, and more dynamic characteristics than the “mall goth” style that was popular at the time of the show’s creation. 

A more negative example would come from the movie The Craft. In this poster we see four girls wearing slightly modified school uniforms, walking through a thunderstorm. There is an air of rebellion and defiance in their appearances, along with the black attire and cross jewlrey that would align their style with the goth subculture rather than punk or grunge etc. The typeface used on the title even has elements reminiscent of gothic architecture. The title itself is a clear reference to witchcraft and magic, something often attributed to goths beauce of their clothes affinity for wearing religious symbols. It would be one thing if the characters simply dressed that way and happened to do magic, but the plot of the movie is basically Mean Girls but if they turned the new girl goth and Regina George was an evil witch. At the time this film came out, the goth subculture was already wrongfully being demonized in the media for being satanic- so releasing a movie about pagan goth girls summoning a demon wasnt doing much to help it’s public image. 

Lastly, we have the sexualized manic pixie dream girl character. Often written by a man, as we see in this example of a comic book cover, this take on the goth subculture can be viewed as either harmless or harmful. Unlike the previous example, the subculture is portrayed in a positive light- often with a female lead. But the damaging aspect comes from the oversexualization of the famle goth characters. Always wearing revealing clothes and saying something suggestive, both of which are shown in the comic cover above. This trope may be harmless in book form, but it often leads to goth women being objectified in real life. 

“My Dark Little Princess.” South Park, created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, season 17, episode 4, Comedy Central, 2013.

The Craft. 1996. [film] Directed by A. Fleming. Hollywood: Columbia Pictures.

Quijada, Sergio. “Goth Ghost Girl.” DeviantArt, 2 Oct. 2005,